Tag Archives: Thomas Paine
(This is an excerpt from Disestablish, a 50-page summary of the Antidisestablishmentarianism and Conflict of the ages series to date.)
An establishment of religion is the collection of taxes and the enforcement of laws to both indoctrinate and require acceptance of a state religion. From the very beginning, pagan temples used an established religion to provide public festivals, sacred sex (temple prostitutes), public proclamations, public welfare, and education. Pagan establishments of religion had very human leaders being worshiped as gods. The most important requirement of an establishment of religion was the communication of the will of the tyrant to the people as the divine will.
The concept of an establishment of religion began very soon after the flood with Nimrod in Babel. Plato detailed what he thought to be the ideal establishment of religion in his work, Republic. Aristotle, China, Egypt, and every other ancient culture has writings detailing how their establishment of religion should work. Many others governments and cultures have nearly identical standards for a state or established religion. Though many kingdoms rose and fell, the practice of a state religion enforced on different populaces used paganism for more than 2,000 years. The spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire witnessed the disintegration of paganism and the old established religions, such as Rome where Caesar was both head of state and high priest (Pontifex Maximus).
During the Dark Ages, not only paganism, but all forms of government collapsed. During this time, established religions were separated from the head of state. In England, the Magna Carta opened with the words that “the English Church is to be free and to have all its rights fully and its liberties entirely.” In spite of these words, the monarch was still the head of Church, appointing the Archbishop Canterbury. On the European continent, the peace treaties of Augsburg and Westphalia allowed princes to worship in their own way and establish the religion of their choice in their territories, separate from the emperor. These treaties also permitted the worship of God in other ways besides the established religion. For one of the few times in history, people could worship God apart from the established religion.
As part of the ratification process of the first amendment of the US Constitution, all thirteen colonies put in writing their understanding of an establishment of religion. Without exception, an establishment of religion means government control, taxation and legislation of public worship, thoughts, ideas, education, welfare, and provisions for poor people. State establishments of religion were permitted under the newly-passed First Amendment to the US Constitution, though there was considerable disagreement as to this being a good idea. At the time of the ratification of the US Constitution, every one of the original thirteen colonies had some degree of an establishment of religion. In some colonies, such as Rhode Island, it provided little more than to make government buildings available for education. In other colonies, such as Virginia, clergy were paid through taxation. All of the original documents are available through http://www.archives.gov/historical-docs/.
Several important men opposing any established religion of any kind were Roger Williams, William Penn, John Bunyan, George Whitefield, John and Charles Wesley, James Madison, and George Washington. Because these men were opposed to government control of welfare and education does not mean that they were opposed to education or helping people in need. In fact these men were the colonial leaders in raising funds to support charitable institutions and schools. George Whitefield founded an orphanage and spent the rest of his life raising funds for it.
There is no law, or even policy, for the separation of church and state in the United States. Separation of church and state is certainly not found in the Constitution. The very attempt makes a secular state into an establishment of religion. It was never the intention of the men who wrote these documents to have the state persecute the church; any church. It was the intent that no one church, or non-church, would be favored over others.
It is important to understand that during this time of defining an establishment of religion, Thomas Paine rejected not only Christianity, but all religion except humanism. By doing this, Thomas Paine brought the secular humanism of Plato’s Republic to America and desired to make a secular government our establishment of religion. But it would take over one hundred fifty years to turn those desires into the official policies of the United States government.
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This is an excerpt from Chapter Five of Antidisestablishmentarianism.
Benjamin Franklin might have remained his friend, yet he said concerning the publication of works like The Age of Reason,
“I have read your manuscript with some attention. By the argument it contains against a particular Providence, though you allow a general Providence, you strike at the foundation of all religion. For without the belief of a Providence that takes cognizance of, guards, and guides, and may favor particular persons, there is no motive to worship a Deity, to fear his displeasure, or to pray for his protection. I will not enter into any discussion of your principles though you seem to desire it. At present I shall only give you my opinion that … the consequence of printing this piece will be a great deal of odium [hate] drawn upon yourself, mischief to you, and no benefit to others. He that spits into the wind, spits in his own face. But were you to succeed, do you imagine any good would be done by it? … Think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue. … I would advise you, therefore, not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person. … If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it? I intend this letter itself as a proof of my friendship.”
Thomas Paine was a bitter, caustic critic of Christianity and organized religion of any kind. He clearly saw the corruption of the Established Religion but he rejected truth and the Scriptures as coming from God himself. He saw the Bible as concocted by the organized church. He denounced many state constitutions for claiming to be tolerant but being tolerant only of Christianity, and attacked the authority of Scriptures repeatedly. Although his ideas have existed for centuries, Thomas Paine was the founding father to whom Secular Humanists look back to justify most of their beliefs and ideas. Secularists today loudly echo Thomas Paine’s views on Christianity.
“No falsehood is so fatal as that which is made an article of faith.”
“Of all the tyrannies that afflict mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst. Every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in, but this attempts a stride beyond the grave and seeks to pursue us into eternity.”
“What is it the New Testament teaches us? To believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married; and the belief of this debauchery is called faith.”
“The Bible: a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind.”
“The Christian system of religion is an outrage on common sense.”
“It has been the scheme of the Christian church, and of all the other invented systems of religion, to hold man in ignorance of the Creator, as it is of government to hold him in ignorance of his rights. The systems of the one are as false as those of the other, and are calculated for mutual support.”
“Priests and conjurors are of the same trade.”
“Jesus Christ, … at once both God and man, and also the Son of God, celestially begotten, on purpose to be sacrificed, because they say that Eve in her longing … had eaten an apple.”
“The Church was resolved to have a New Testament, and as, after the lapse of more than three hundred years, no handwriting could be proved or disproved, the Church, which like former impostors had then gotten possession of the State, had everything its own way. It invented creeds… and out of the loads of rubbish that were presented it voted four to be Gospels, and others to be Epistles, as we now find them arranged.”
“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon that the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.”
“As to the Christian system of faith, it appears to me as a species of atheism — a sort of religious denial of God. It professed to believe in man rather than in God. It is as near to atheism as twilight to darkness. It introduces between man and his Maker an opaque body, which it calls a Redeemer, as the moon introduces her opaque self between the earth and the sun, and it produces by this means a religious or irreligious eclipse of the light. It has put the whole orbit of reason into shade.”
“The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion.”
“Yet this is the trash that the Church imposes upon the world as the Word of God; this is the collection of lies and contradictions called the Holy Bible! this is the rubbish called Revealed Religion!”
“The continually progressive change to which the meaning of words is subject, the want of a universal language which renders translation necessary, the errors to which translations are again subject, the mistakes of copyists and printers, together with the possibility of willful alteration, are of themselves evidences that the human language, whether in speech or in print, cannot be the vehicle of the Word of God. The Word of God exists in something else.”
“The fable of Christ and his twelve apostles, which is a parody on the Sun and the twelve signs of the Zodiac, copied from the ancient religions of the Eastern world, is the least hurtful part.”